On this day in 1987 John Banes signed for Liverpool Football Club.
Born in Kingston Jamaica, Barnes and his family moved to England in January 1976. Within a week of arriving in England, Barnes had joined a local football team that went by the name of Stowe Boys Club. Barnes would usually play in the midfield role or up front but when arriving at Stowe he was asked to play centre back, he played in that position for the entire three years he was there.
He got an early opportunity to impress Hornets manager Graham Taylor at a youth game. Watford were promoted to the top tier of English football at the end of the 1981/82 season. They had an incredible start to their first season in the top-flight with John Barnes being a key player in their success.
As Watford started to establish themselves in the top tier, Barnes was catching the eye of some big name clubs.
In the summer of 1987 Kenny Dalglish agreed a fee of 900,000 to bring Barnes to Anfield. He would then become a part of one of the most exciting attacking forces at the club. It took him only nine minutes to assist John Aldridge on his debut at Highbury against Arsenal. His first real test was at Anfield against Oxford, he put in a great performance that impressed Dalglish with him saying “Barnes did everything we expected, scored one, created one, and entertained.”
That season was a fairy-tale one for Liverpool with Barnes being their talisman. Liverpool won the league championship that season with a total of 90 points and scoring 87 goals, Barnes scored 15 of those. He was also voted PFA and Writer’s Player of the Year.
The Reds struggled to capture their unique form the following season but got into gear in the second half of the campaign with 15 wins and 3 draws in 18 games as well as going on to reach the FA Cup final. However, all of that did not matter when on the 15th April, 96 Liverpool fans lost their lives at Hillsborough.
Despite losing the league too Arsenal on the final day, the Reds didn’t finish the season empty handed meeting Merseyside rivals Everton in the FA Cup final. Barnes final got that elusive cup winners’ medal having come so close with Watford and Liverpool in the past. Liverpool again couldn’t capture their form at the beginning of the 1989/90 season with Barnes now partnering Ian Rush up front. Barnes still managed to score 12 goals in 20 matches in the first half of the season and 16 goals in 25 matches in the second half giving him a total of 28, Liverpool’s top scorer. He was again voted PFA Player of the Year and joined players like Stanley Matthews, Danny Blanchflower and Kenny Dalglish in winning the award twice in their career.
Liverpool won the Championship again that year and ended their season by winning 6-1 against Coventry city on the final day, Barnes getting a hat-trick.
Liverpool won their first 14 games at the beginning of the 1990/91 season. Dalglish resigned shortly after that and Liverpool gave up top spot to Arsenal. Graeme Souness took over for the 1991/92 season, unfortunately Barnes got injured in the early parts of the season and couldn’t feature until January. The winger was at a cross-roads in hid Liverpool career and his hopes for playing for a European team like Juventus or Real Madrid when he ruptured his Achilles and was left with many more injury problems after that.
Souness resigned and was replaced with Roy Evans who created a new role for Barnes, due to him not being as quick as he used to be Evans wanted him to play in midfield. He was handed the captains armband in 1996 and this encouraged his excellent form to continue. He lifted his first trophy as captain by winning the league Cup beating Bolton 2-1.
A decade after signing from Watford, Barnes was given a free transfer to join former manager Kenny Dalglish at Newcastle where he stayed for two seasons.
John Barnes ended his career making 407 appearances and scoring 108 goals. He also left with a handful of winners’ medals under his belt including X2 League Championships, X1 FA Cup and X1 League cup.
Article by Lauren Black
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